Regular readers of this newsletter will know that I have a
consultancy with regional group of the Parkinson's Disease
Sufferers Society. We meet together once a month. The group
is mixed about 50/50 sufferers and careers/partners. I think
it is fair to say that we are all over 50 in years! Of the
sufferers some are in the early stages of the onset and others
far more progressed and control the disease with a drug regime
that has its own 'symptomatic' side effects.
"There is no known cure for Parkinson's disease.
The goal of treatment is to control symptoms. Medications
control symptoms primarily by increasing the levels of dopamine
in the brain. The type of medication, the dose, the amount
of time between doses, or the combination of medications used
may need to be adjusted as symptoms change. Many medications
can cause severe side effects, so monitoring and follow-up
by the health care provider is important." "http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000755.htm
In consideration of all of this - and with the evidence of
my own eyes at our first session together it became obvious
that strict Form practice - as a group - was not a realistic
possibility. And whilst on the subject of realism I should
say right now that I did not expect to be curing any disease's!
No, all that I was doing was just putting together a sequence
of some simple posture, movement, limb coordination and breath
exercise that I hoped might be just a small step in the right
direction! I did some homework and research and concluded
that if Tai Chi could passably help - it would only do so
if I were sympathetic to - or at least at first tried to understand
1. Communication: The condition can (due
to lack of muscle control in the face - see "Muscle Cramps"
below) create a misleading impression, leading incorrectly
to being perceived of as being difficult, deaf, disinterested,
drunk or unintelligent. As a consequence many people with
Parkinson's feel very isolated.
2. Speech: Can be slurred. Monotonous with
lack of variation and expression. Hoarse and tremulous. Disordered
in rate or rhythm. Responses may be very slow. Leads to similar
misunderstanding as those detailed above.
3. Freezing: About 30% of people suffering
from Parkinson's will at some times experience "Freezing"
- which can also lead to an increased risk of falling.
4. Muscle Cramps:
A. Dystonia: Movement disorder. Involuntary
contraction of the muscles, causing spasm. Muscles become
hard due to contraction without relaxing (not the same as
B. Akinesia: Reduction in or absence of movement,
muscular rigidity, "cramp". Muscles become hard
and less elastic. In Parkinson's, most common in the feet.
Spasm in the calf muscles can cause the toes to curl into
a claw like position. In other cases the big toe hyper-extends
- pointing upwards.
5. Smaller Muscles:
'A. 'Blepharospasm': Intermittent or sustained
eyelid closure, caused by the contraction of the eyelid muscle.
Aggravated by stress, looking up or down, reading, driving
or bright lights (photophobia: abnormal intolerance to light).
B. Sialorrhoea: Drooling a.k.a. dribbling.
Saliva pooling and trickling from the mouth. Not because more
saliva is produced but because the tendency to swallow every
now and again (even when not eating) is slowed down (See "4B.
Aggregated by poor (stooped) posture and inadequate lip seal.
Everyone has difficulty in swallowing if they cannot close
their lips tightly. You try! Try to swallow with your mouth
In some cases, simply improving the posture can alleviate
An apparently small and insignificant thing like swallowing
and consequential eating problems can have a tremendous negative
impact upon a person's quality of life at home, and in terms
of their social life.
Those with the problem can become anxious about swallowing
anything for the fear of choking. Many eat less than normal
and loose weight. They do not enjoy eating and feel embarrassed,
or experience panic or anxiety attacks at mealtimes. All of
this has a demoralising effect; because eating and drinking
are essential parts of life and the social aspect is as important
as the practical, biological function.
Therefore, in regard this "apparently small and insignificant
swallowing and eating problem" my first prescription
was a series of "Head Nodding" exercises.
Pages with illustrations detailing these exercises now online
as " Head Nodding " [http://www.wheels.taichido.comheadtotoe/headtotoe_1neck_e123.htm]
These exercises formed the basis of our first two sessions